You won’t be able to resist YMCK’s sugary sweetness for long – the 8bit tunes with fluffy jazz pop flavour and a distinctive pixelated aesthetic by this Japanese band consisting of Midori Kurihara, Takeshi Yokemura and Tomoyuki Nakamura will give you a more than a cosy feeling of 80′s nostalgia. Too bad we missed them at the annual Famicom Mode convention party in January! However, with their third album Family Genesis out, YMCK’s Takeshi talks to PingMag about his fond love for retro games (and a lot more…)
Written by Vicente Montelongo and Verena
First of all, how did YMCK come to exist five years ago?
There was no plan in the beginning. A few years ago, Tomoyuki and I were both support members of one of my friends’ band. The band often organised their live performance events by themselves, and at one of those events they suddenly had a free slot on the schedule. To fill the gap, we decided to form a band. Only, we thought that two guys on the stage wouldn’t look so good, so we invited Midori to join. That’s how YMCK started. Incidentally, our music style at that time wasn’t 8bit, I had that idea after we had been playing a few months.
Something very simple: Why is it YMCK and not RGB?
There is no reason! At first I was thinking of naming it after our names’ initials, but I couldn’t get it sound nice. The Y and M sequence is pretty neat though, so I wanted it to begin with that. But there are only few words starting with YM, and it almost automatically became YMCK.
Do you think the term chiptune – music synthesised in real time – accurately describes your sound?
Yes, it seems that any music with a focus on vintage video games and computer sounds is treated as chiptune.
Where do the sounds come from? Is there a main platform you are using?
My platform is Mac OSX. Almost all of my sounds are digitally processed with it.
Ahh, Apple, of course. How do you emulate the old sounds so perfectly?
The host software is Logic, version 6 or 7, and I run my Magical 8bit Plug on it. That’s enough to emulate the old sound. Unlike the real 8bit consoles, you can have as much polyphony with my plug-in as you want, so always have to be aware not to overdub it too much, so that the cheapness isn’t spoiled.
The Magical 8bit Plug! Any further plans with it?
My biggest goal is to keep 8bit music alive for the future! Making music with the real 8bit consoles is a bit difficult because you have to use old, not very user-friendly software, or sometimes have to modify the hardware yourself, which often deters people from trying. My plug-in is making it easier for people to compose in 8bit and this hopefully will keep the style up-to-date for the future. However, I have to refine the program code to make it work better in a wider environment, but there isn’t enough time to do it…
Oh! We are waiting for this! Regarding your live gigs: How do you play live with your programmed music?
That’s top secret! You have to come to see our show yourself and feel the magic of the 8bit world!
Oh yes! By the way, what does 8bit mean to you – is it a concept, a dedication, or is there a whole lifestyle around it?
It is simply my favourite. The cuteness and cheapness of it has a unique fascination no other sounds have.
You mean, 8bit as part of your everyday life…
Since YMCK, I’ve been very aware of 8bit-like things, namely blip-blop sounds, pixel graphics and other topics about 8bit consoles.
Pixel graphics! Let’s get to the enchanting YMCK visuals: Your very elaborate and retro-looking visual style and video clips obviously reference a certain time in video game history. Did you actually use old code for generating the visuals?
No old codes! We use modern software that every graphic or video designer uses. Adobe Photoshop is the best software for drawing pixel art!
And who creates your visuals, all of you together?
YMCK has several visual areas, including video art, CD jacket artwork, goods design, costume design, etc. With video art, Tomoyuki is mainly in charge of making them, with the basic ideas being discussed by us three. The costumes are designed by Midori herself. With other things, we sometimes collaborate with designers.
For example, we saw your lovely YMCK keychain by capsule toy maker Yujin – who had the idea for the project?
Yujin, since they liked our little toy we previously released: It was called dot-s which allowed us to make pixel art in physical space with small square pins and a matrix board. So, they wanted to do something like this.
We see. For that, you worked with designer Polygraph – is there more you did with him?
Also, the album jackets of “Family Racing” and “Family Genesis” are designed by him.
Is there more sweet merchandise coming, apart from the YMCK buttons?
We’re discussing that at the moment …
Oh, we have to get back to your latest album: What is the story of its title, Family Genesis? Is it about a game…?
Lots of people think that it’s from the name of SEGA’s 16bit console, but that wasn’t the idea. I use the word “genesis” in its original meaning, that is, the very beginning of things. In terms of history, the chiptune period has been around since the 1970s and chiptune musicians have persisted in using 8bit sounds despite the rapid improvement of computer technologies. Finally after over thirty years, it is been rediscovered as a new style of music and is about to attract people more and more. I was so impressed with the whole history, that I tried to express the story in an abstract way as “Chiptune Genesis” with this album.
Last year, you collaborated with Tokyo Pudding for a compilation called Tokyo Soundscapes, a very nice project where other hot artists such as De De Mouse were also involved. What Japanese musicians do you find interesting at the moment?
Recently I’m more into Southeast Asia – increasingly, there are a lot of chiptune musicians in Indonesia. Very interesting! You can find them easily with the MySpace search for “influenced by” YMCK and “in” Indonesia.
Oh, please! Apart from music, do you have a favourite game platform?
I like Famicom best – not too simple, not too complex in several aspects, a graphic and sound capability and an elaborateness of the games.
And you have to tell us one of you favourite moments while playing!
Of course I like any kind of catharsis that the game designers prepared for us, like clearing stages, solving mysteries, etc. I like best drinking beer and playing randomly with my friends.
And the first game you ever played, what do you remember of it?
I don’t remember very well… However, the first machine for me was my father’s Fujitsu computer called FM-7, while most of my friends were playing Famicom at that time. It wasn’t a poor computer actually – but as it’s not a game console, the quality of sound and graphics are far behind Famicom. I felt a bit of envy every time I went to my friends’ houses…
How about today’s video games?
I don’t know very much about today’s video games, but playing Wii with friends seems to be so much fun.
Oh my! We are still in total awe about your goods and music! Thank you, Takeshi of YMCK. We want to see you perform! And indeed:
YMCK Online Live Concert:
YMCK do a live show on the internet on the Japanese video sharing site Nico Nico Douga (you have to subscribe first.)
This Friday, March 28th, 2008.
From 8pm to 8.30pm (Tokyo time.)